By Susan Roberts
I’ve thought about it a lot, trust me. Those who ask why I’ve never married often add “especially for a romance writer” to their arsenal of implied insults. I don’t know why, but I think it has something to do with three men: Han Solo, Harrison Ford and Indiana Jones.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking and I see it too – they are, in fact, all the same person. I fell in love with the swashbuckling space pirate Han Solo in the original Star Wars movie way back when I was 16. Not only was he tall and handsome, fearless, in charge of his own life and handy with a gun, but he had a devastating smile that could melt the frostiest heart.
I mean, what’s not to like? Even the calculating Princess Leia, hell-bent on her own rebel mission, liked him just a little in that first movie. I saw the film five times before it went off circuit because that’s all my pocket money would stretch to.
Of course, as a naive 16-year-old with limited access to television and no internet (it was 1978), information on the actor who played him – Harrison Ford – was hard to find. I remember the excitement I felt when browsing through the film magazines in my local newsagent and finding the sci-fi mag which boasted interviews with all three of the human stars of Star Wars. I snatched it up and paged through till I found Harrison Ford…
…and was devastated to read that he was an old man of 35!!! I mean – that was more than twice my age! He was almost in the same age bracket as my parents! Gross!
However, despite my initial disappointment nothing put me off him. On the contrary, it made him a serious man of the world in my young eyes. He pushed into the background all my youthful lusting after local schoolboys who had no idea what they were up against. Shame.
I found posters of him for my bedroom walls, I found magazine interviews with little photos of him that I could stick on my pencil case and admire all day at school, and best of all I found other movies that he was in. Unlike his early television appearances that were only available in America, these were movies that I could actually see. There weren’t any video machines back in those days, but international movies did the circuit via our three local cinemas and after the unprecedented success of Star Wars, Harrison Ford got to be in quite a lot of them.
The only reason I watched Apocalypse Now was because my man was in a tiny scene in which Martin Sheen was briefed about his upcoming mission. The name on his uniform was Lucas – a tribute to George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars. (It’s amazing how much trivia a kid could collect just from browsing movie magazines back then. I only bought the mags that had pictures; the rest I speed-read in the newsagent – they must have been sick of me.)
Both American Graffiti and Heroes were shown on television and I don’t think I blinked once during the bits when my hero was on our tiny black and white screen. I dragged my parents to see Force 10 from Navarone while we were on holiday. I loved it because it had my hero in it, and my dad enjoyed it because Ford and Robert Shaw blew up a bridge together.
By the time Hanover Street was released, I was a serious drama student who felt obliged to see at least one movie a week with my student discount. Of course I saw this love story with my handsome Harrison in it several times. Whatever else was on circuit simultaneously was missed without regrets.
The next great movie was The Frisco Kid which played the same cinema where I had seen Apocalypse Now, but this time Harrison Ford was in it from start to finish, and looking like a million dollars as an old-fashioned scoundrel instead of a space scoundrel. This man was good at historical stuff as well as everything else.
But the best movie of all was the one which was released in 1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark. I saw it on a huge screen and loved every minute of it. Suddenly here was a man to eclipse both Han Solo and Harrison Ford – Indiana Jones. My world was complete.
In my defence, it wasn’t just me. Movie-making had taken a sharp turn with Star Wars and it changed again with Raiders of the Lost Ark. Both movies spawned a whole new style of film-making, a new genre of adventure, a new era of blockbuster, and a new type of hero.
It was inevitable that the first Indiana Jones adventure would have an impact on my life. Indy was the next logical step in Ford’s life and Indy’s symbolic breaking of the movie industry barriers mirrored my own move away from home into the larger adventure of theatre and the world of make-believe that I had chosen as a career. Is it any wonder that no one else ever matched up over the years?
When I finally got my own video machine, my Harrison Ford collection began, but it wasn’t until the advent of DVDs that I managed to get my hands on a lot of his earlier movies. Over the years I have re-watched them all, but my favourite remains Raiders of the Lost Ark and my best hero of all time will always be Indiana Jones. I even write books now that have tall swashbuckling treasure-seekers and some of my novels concern archaeological finds, or at least the search for them.
For an actor like Harrison Ford who was astute enough to choose his movie roles wisely, the rewards have been phenomenal. Another industry-changing movie that he starred in was Blade Runner, while the acting talent that many hadn’t suspected was showcased in The Mosquito Coast as well as Witness, for which he received an Oscar nomination. By the end of the eighties Ford had starred in seven of the top ten blockbuster movies of all time, and his career has lasted since then for an extraordinarily long time.
Even now I love to watch new movies that Harrison Ford makes, and not only because I still lust after him. He has a way of picking a good movie and I just follow him.